* *


It is a banality to state that the discovery of America is an ideological chimera. America was not discovered, it was always both here and there. And here I must make a distinction between the Americas (a geographical location), and America (a concept, not a place). Although America cannot be separated from the horrors of slavery, and while America should not be imagined without the triangulations of the Black Atlantic, as a state of mind America necessarily exists here, there and everywhere (America is always and already manifesting itself as "Amerikkka"). America is many different places, but the America that particularly interested me as an adolescent was simultaneously the America exposed in films such as Super Fly and Cleopatra Jones (that is to say the America of Willie Mitchell and James Brown) – and America as the modernist utopia of an avant-garde reacting against the horrors of Nazism (that is to say, in theory the America of Andy Warhol and William Burroughs, but in practice the America of McDonalds and Disneyland). America is always both within and without you. America is a poem by Allen Ginsberg. America is the counterculture, and the counterculture (particularly the American counterculture, and Americanism when used as a synonym for globalisation and/or patriotism) is and was invariably deformed by libertarianism. All of anarchism is to be found in the idea that it is possible to live differently in this world. The America I discovered was only a train ride away from London, it is also Summerland (the sleep of reason, a kind of living death).

For me photography is most alluring when both the person behind the lens and what is being photographed self-consciously manifest their subjectivity. Travelling across "Britain" to discover "America" is only one of the many ways in which such subjectivity might remake the world in both photographic and material form. This then is the difference between pastoralism and psychogeography. The psychogeographer (and photography is only of any interest to me in so far as it is a form of psychogeography) knows that the world cannot be recorded, it can only be remade. The pastoralist, on the other hand, wants to believe that everything that is fabricated pre-existed this fabrication, and that it will "endure" "forever" because it is in some way "natural" and "real". The pastoralist is incapable of properly articulating the difference between a William Morris wallpaper and a Jess Franco film, and will always prefer the reactionary idealism of arts and crafts to material science in the form of proletarian postmodernism. Truth is process, pastoralism stands for stasis and death.

I had been intending to subjectively remake myself in and through a series of photographs of "America" taken in "Britain" for some time before I fabricated the interventions inscribed here. A friend who’d just undergone a cure for heroin addiction sent me a partially used disposable camera. I exposed the rest of the film, and then became paranoid about the pictures I hadn’t taken, thinking they might be of almost anything, and were probably in some way disturbing (they certainly couldn’t "represent" my "brend"). It was months before I got the film developed, and when I did it transpired that the earlier exposures were largely blank (a classical example of "avant-garde" iconoclasm). I then bought another disposable camera and took further pictures. This time I took too many photographs because I had a whole roll of film to subvert, and rather than using everything I’d taken, I got to pick and choose – which allowed me to use half the pictures and abandon the rest (a rather nasty and "artistic" business). In a less than ideal world the photographs that follow would be reproduced twice, once in colour and once in black and white (the effects are at times strikingly different). This then is the world we must destroy – a world that does not allow me to be a polymorphous pervert in the morning, a horny handed son of toil in the afternoon, and a critical photographer at night (flash effects really aren’t my thing). "Defend" "America", shit on the stars and stripes!

Stewart Home, "Washington D.C." August 403 MKE.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 1

The spatial field of a drift may be precisely delimited or vague,
depending upon whether a specific terrain is under investigation or the
effect soought is emotional disorientation.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 2

Just as urbanisation destroyed the sacred groves of the ’original’ Druids,
so the avant-bard will destroy any remaining ‘aura’ emanating from the
fields of art and religion.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 3

Religious and social questions are handled according to the traditions
and historical experience of different cultures.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 4

It is not enough to accept Lucifer as the only possible source of Light. In
order to strike a balance between Baal and the Egyptian Sun God Ra,
the camel must pass through the eye of Cleopatra’s needle.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 5

Darkness and obscurity are banished by artificial lighting and the
seasons abolished by air conditioning.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 6

In the nineteenth-century, a Scottish property speculator named
McIntosh built this part of East London as a residential development.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 7

Four miles of street frontage in the form of terraced housing were given
an alphabet of road names sharing a Scottish theme, starting with Aisla
Street and ending with Zetland Street.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 8

We, the deputies of the principal College of the Brethren of the Rose
Cross are, amongst you in this town, visibly and invisibly, through the
grace of the Most High to whom the hearts of all just men are turned, in
order to save our fellow men from the error of death.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 9

Cultural plurality as a form of continuous becoming, where identity is
dissolved and momentarily re-emerges in an ongoing process of
recombination, breaks down the sterile duality of rationalist thought.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 10

Before winter comes, a passionate union must be established.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 11

Isis is the wife of Osiris.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 12

Nothing is unknown in heaven, nothing is known on earth, the kingdom
is simultaneously within and without you...

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 13

My friends we are organic bodies.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 14

The Mudchute is an artificial mound made of river silt dredged from the
Millwall Docks when they were constructed in the nineteenth-century.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 15

Everything you show me, I, unbelieving, hate.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 16

And does it ever happen that a couple who have separated decide to
live together again?

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 17

Know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 18

One more effort, iconoclasts, and you will destroy the reigning culture.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 19

Wine will make a man a linguist, it will teach him Greek in two hours.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 20

You’ll never see the hacienda. It doesn’t exist.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 21

The changing of landscapes from one hour to the next will result in complete disorientation.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 22

To the North East, there is an alignment with St Anne’s Limehouse, a
Hawksmoor church.

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 23

You see, you hear, you smell, you touch, you walk, you think, you

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 24

A rational extension of the old religious systems, of old tales, and
above all of psychoanalysis, into architectural expression becomes more
and more urgent as all the reasons for becoming impassioned

Stewart Home psychogeographical project How I Discovered America photo 25

This new vision of time and space, will be the theoretical basis of all
future constructions.

Originally published as a black and white pamphlet titled "Info Pool No.6, 2002 How I discovered America by Stewart Home".

There is also an Info Pool online version of this available here

2010 gallery work by Stewart Home

Becoming (M)other at T1/2 Artspace

Vermeer II (a solo exhibition by Stewart Home)

Ruins of Glamour at Chisenhale Gallery


photo of Stewart Home

Peter Carty examines two conflicting strategies in contemporary psychogeography and asks whether rules and regulations or radical subjectivity is the way forward.

The fashionable pursuit of remapping the cityscape is taking diverse forms – from rigid adherence to rules to wilful transgression. In Holland, Wilfried Hone Je Bek and his fellow psychogeographers (see [www.socialfiction.org]) are developing a ‘generative psychogeography’ with dÈrives derived from pre-determined algorithms. The hazards of social fiction’s adventures for other pavement users aside, fracturing the regime of the city through such strict rule-following may not be a realisation of psychogeography’s potentials. Arch prankster Stewart Home, who has long made psychogeography a basis of his art practice describes a much more flexible approach in his latest pamphlet (How I Discovered America, Infopool No.6, 2002 [www.infopool.org.uk]). Home’s premise is that America (or Amerikkka, as he calls it) exists everywhere as a state of mind. So he’s journeyed around selected spots in Britain to find it for himself, taking photographs to document his exploits.

Some of Home’s pictures show housing built for American servicemen working at an intelligence installation; but most have no connection, however tenuous, with the ‘actual’ USA. The implication is that psychogeography need not insist on a connection between interior and exterior environments, a return to the practice’s first principles that recovers its imaginative and critical potential. Home’s approach, which resembles the old tactic of navigating one territory with the map of another, deploys an apparently radical subjectivism to focuses the reader’s attention on the (philosophical) idealism of America itself, a simulacral Kingdom of Heaven-on-earth.

Some would consider this approach politically suspect, of course. Psychogeography has often been attacked as anti-materialist, bourgeois and idealist. Home seems at once to flaunt the idiosyncracy of his ‘viewpoint’ and deconstruct the notion of there being a ‘psychological’ subject to whom this view could be ascribed. Those wondering if psychogeography’s increasingly gentrified conceptual by-ways are still worth visiting will find, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, that there’s no place like Home.
By Peter Carty and from Mute Magazine 2003.

A Cavalier History Of Surrealism by Raoul Vaneigem as 'J-F Dupuis' (translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith)
After Guy Debord, Raoul Vaneigem is one of the more celebrated situationist theorists. This short sketch of a forerunner to the group of which he was once a leading light, says more about Vaneigem’s theoretical weaknesses than it does about his ostensible subject. Vaneigem usefully stresses the specificity of surrealism, concentrating on its differences to dada. Unfortunately, he rather mechanically expands on the situationist dictum that the dadaists wanted to suppress art without realising it, while the surrealists wanted to realise art without suppressing it. Part and parcel of Vaneigem’s reductive treatment of this subject are his blinkered Eurocentric and Francophone perspectives. His more general pronouncements emerge very clearly from his immersion in European high culture and indicate an inadequate knowledge of other social and cultural forms. Vaneigem’s grasp of history is every bit as defective as his attempts at dialectic. He writes of books being transformed into commodities by the market when, as perhaps the first perfected capitalist commodity, the book actually played a key role in the development of capitalist markets (there is a dialectical relationship between books and the market, Vaneigem’s treatment is one-sided). However, while this is a bad book, it is also a very instructive one. The attraction of situationism for many of its fans is the air of extremism that emerges from the very weaknesses that are displayed so extravagantly here. The text is well worth reading, not as a critical primer on surrealism, but rather as an unconscious exposition of the flaws underlying situationist ideology.
Stewart Home, review originally published in Mute Magazine.

Some Recent London Art Shows, January 2007 Blog
Tripped off to the Tate Modern the other week but failed to join the religion that worships money. However it wasn't all a waste of time, the best thing being "David Smith Sculptures". Smith was an important mid-twentieth century American sculptor who assimilated the influence of the European avant-garde into his work before many of his transatlantic peers. So far so good, and you see Smith working methodically thru ideas in his steel sculptures. Although Smith ain't my bag, I didn't feel I was wasting my time looking at his work. Smith is serious but with a sense of humour. The best thing in the exhibition was actually the documentary film projected in the last room. This was an edition of "Art New York" about Smith entitled "The Sculpting Master of Bolton Landing". Dating from the early sixties, this educational TV programme has the ultra-camp poet and MOMA curator Frank O'Hara interviewing a cigar chomping Smith. There are some fine location shots around Smith's Bolton Landing sculpture workshop and when O'Hara refers to the sculptures as male, Smith insists they are all female. Later when O'Hara thanks Smith for coming to New York for a television studio interview, the sculptor makes it clear he's been having a good time in the Big Apple not simply appearing on camera but going out to see dancing girls. Which reminds me, I first read O'Hara's "Lunch Poems" back in the late seventies when I was sweet sixteen, but after seeing him interviewing Smith, opening that publication is never going to be quite the same experience again. It has taken me nearly thirty years to realise just how super phat and groovy O'Hara actually was.

Across the hall from David Smith was "Flowers & Questions: A Retrospective" by Fischli & Weiss, two Swiss artists with all the talent of a retarded ameba. According to The Tate their work is an: "exploration of the similarities between high and low culture, the spectacular and the mundane, is characterised by a playful sense of humour. In focusing on the understated, the mediocre, the unmemorable and the pointless, they show us a world of inconspicuous wonders." Actually they show us a vision of utter tedium, that art is dead baby, and we need to burn the museums.... Fischli & Weiss are the sort of people who give post-modernism a bad name. So you have a load of banal photographs of supposedly dramatic scenes composed from sausages, cold meats and common household objects. Watching paint dry is more interesting. Also at the Tate Modern were various helter skelters installed by a well known German "artist"; as shoots they were fun, or at least I enjoyed the higher ones, and since I blagged free tickets to everything it was cheaper than going to the fun fair. And as for these shoots being "art", as Up Against The Wall King Mob put it way back when in the sixties: "the death of art spells the murder of artists, the real anti-artists appear..." Downstairs was "Media Burn", an exhibition "critiquing media, politics and art itself". This was built around the mid-seventies Ant Farm film "Media Burn" in which a car is driven into a bank of burning television sets. Nice image and some of the media coverage included in the video is funny but the film goes on way too long. The rest of this show isn't worth looking at.

Elsewhere "Indica" at Riflemaker Gallery was undoubtedly more interesting as a social event at the overcrowded opening than as a show. Indica is a legendary London Gallery of the sixties that intersected with the counterculture and showed the likes of Yoko Ono, Liliane Lijn, Takis and the Boyle Family. Works by these old stalwarts were mixed with younger artists exploring similar psychedelic territory. There were some good pieces but it didn't work for me as a whole, and I'd have rather seen the recreation of a single Indica show than this attempt to simulate the vibe of the place, something that could only work at the opening. Meanwhile at Gasworks in south London "Lapdogs Of The Bourgeoisie: Class Hegemony in Contemporary Arts" was a group show with a wonderfully unfashionable title. A subtitle like that is bound to let you down, and the exhibition had a lot more to do with art than class, but at least it provided a nod and a wink in the right direction.
From Stewart Home blog.

Collector's File - Gilbert & George
Despite being among the best known of British artists, Gilbert & George are easily upset by bad press. Several years ago the Anthony d'Offay Gallery, who handle Gilbert & George, issued a circular to museum curators which instructed them on how to be suitably reverential towards the odd couple. The demands made by Anthony d'Offay on behalf of their clients were extraordinary, and included the following specification: "if a catalogue is to be produced for the exhibition, they only wish to participate if their work is to be discussed in the introduction (if there is an introduction); but not in a way which denigrates either them or their work, in which case they would prefer not to be included in the exhibition."

Gilbert & George also demanded that their "pictures should never be described as photographs." This request was absurd because their work is basically photography, albeit executed on a monumental scale. Likewise, Gilbert & George insist that their art is not modernist, stating that "we say that puzzling, obscure and form-obsessed art is decadent and a cruel denial of the Life of People." However, the odd couple are very coy about admitting that their photographs actually operate within the discourse of totalitarian art. This is a tradition that the art historian Igor Golomstock has described as being, after modernism, the second international style of twentieth-century culture.

The singularly most important component in Gilbert & George's work is the constant reproduction of their own image. The cult of the personality is, of course, the central element of all totalitarian art. It logically follows from this that the odd couple's photographs are not really aimed at private collectors, they are intended for public consumption. The Anthony d'Offay Gallery were extremely obstructive when I asked them to put me in touch with private buyers of Gilbert & George's work. After giving me the run around for three days, the girlies who work at the gallery provided me with a list of museums who'd bought work by the odd couple. No doubt Sadie Coles and Kirsty Bell, who radiate deb. stupidity, feel very sophisticated when informing their friends that Gilbert & George's latest works are entitled Naked Shit Pictures. These two girlies certainly seemed ignorant enough to think I'd be unable to track down a buyer of the odd couple's work without the gallery's assistance.

In fact it's easy to identify the type of private collector who buys work by Gilbert & George, because their gallery attracts faded glitterati such as the pop singer Brian Ferry and the film director Karel Reisz. While it's unlikely these individuals share Anthony d'Offay's unsavoury interest in Wyndham Lewis, totalitarian chic has long proved irresistible to the fashion crowd. Scott Crolla bought one of Gilbert & George's monumental photographs by instalments to hang in his Dover Street clothes shop. In the eighties, Crolla was a Mecca of Hip, generating reams of coverage in fashion-bibles such as The Face, although the shop closed at the height of the recession, unable to capitalise on this type of publicity when money was tight.

The use of monumental photography bought on tick as an advertisement of a fashionable life-style, is hardly the most interesting reason to collect totalitarian art. However, the fashion connection did provide an outlet whereby individuals who are unable to obtain favourable credit terms from Anthony d'Offay could buy into the odd couple's totalitarian dream. In 1993, the Daniel James clothes shop in Sloane Street was selling T-shirts featuring limited edition silk-screen prints of Gilbert & George photographs, priced at between £30 and £150.

John Berndt, a gay skinhead who lives on a South London council estate is the proud owner of one of these, alongside various other bits and pieces of Gilbert & George memorabilia. Berndt doesn't like modern art, he thinks pictures should show you something you can recognise, although he never uses the terms abstract and representational. Asked why he bought his Gilbert & George T-shirt, John responds that "it's different." I'm sure the odd couple would be pleased with this reply, after all they claim to make art for the people. However, collectors looking for a sound investment would be well advised to steer clear of Gilbert & George, historically the monetary value of totalitarian art has tended to erode over the years.
First published in the Modern Review February/March 1995.